Alex Garland has potentially produced and directed one of the finest but ominous films of the 21st Century. I realise I am a little late to the Ex Machina appreciation party. It doesn’t stop said appreciated for Garland creating an eery look into the potential future of artificial intelligence.
It’s only until the credits rolled up and I realised that it was the same Alex Garland that wrote the screenplay for 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later and Sunshine (which happens to be one of my all-time favourite films)
Ex Machina opens with Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) winning a company competition to spend a week at the compound owned by Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the owner of Bluebook (The company Caleb codes for). Nathan’s compound is so large that requires a helicopter to fly there.
Nathan fills Caleb in on something special that he has been working on, a robot with artificial intelligence (known to them as Ava) and Nathan wants Caleb to administer the Turing test on Ava (played by Alicia Vikander). (Which is a test to decipher whether an AI can appear to be human). This is done through Ava sessions throughout the week.
It has to be said, the effects used in this film are simply astonishing with Alicia Vikander transformed into a robot, but also a few other scenes I thought were excellent but cannot talk about due to potential spoilers. The music was also fantastic, even going down to whirrs as Ava walks, which was a fantastic effect.
And this isn’t where it stops for the music, as the music paints this tense portrait throughout the sessions with Ava and the post-session meetings with Nathan. Especially as Ava reveals information about Nathan during a compound blackout. Often during the sessions the music becomes uncontrollable and blaring and made me tense during these scenes, as it builds the anticipation to know what is going on in the compound.
Oscar Isaac, Domnhall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander were all superb in this film and really kept the pace of the film up as we learn more about their characters as their relationships grow (or not in Caleb’s and Nathan’s case). This film was truly made for the characters involved in this, rather than the action in this film.
It has to be said, I’ve read a few reviews describing it severely lacked an action sequence to do the film justice, however, I believed the action sequence to be of perfect fitting within the film and how it’s played out. Otherwise I believe this would’ve drawn too much attention away from the last few moments.
Overall, this is an outstanding directorial debut from Alex Garland, and with another work coming in 2017, I truly cannot wait for. And standing at around 108 minutes long, the film was paced superbly, not forgetting the incredible score aiding the tense scenes throughout the film. The cinematography was also astounding with the beautiful shots of Nathan’s compound, coupled with the lighting and colouring of the interior made this a joy to watch. But the real triumph in this film is how the characters played out the story is fantastic and the real reason I kept watching this film.
Also watching this film, you might see the most light hearted scene considering Ex Machina’s subject matter. A smile never left my face during this certain scene. (Don’t worry you’ll know which one)